In the first post of this series, we wrote about how most organizations today rely on networks of computers, all of which rely on clocks. If the clocks in these computers don’t agree with each other or reflect the correct time, it’s a bomb ticking away in the heart of IT infrastructure.
In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the five dangers and negative consequences of running out-of-sync computers in a network.
Automated events, like data backups or order processing, simply don’t occur or else they break. This happens because a trigger set to go off at a certain time does not or because tasks that are supposed to be carried out on different computers cannot be executed in the proper sequence.
This occurs because system software like directory services erroneously saves an out-of-date version of a file instead of the latest version.
These occur both directly and indirectly and as a result of poor timekeeping. For example, most systems set time using an industry standard protocol called NTP (Network Time Protocol) that opens the firewall to hackers.
Other security lapses occur because administrators cannot retrace hacker activities since log files are inaccurate. A third example is when security applications (like badge readers), designed to protect company assets, stop working.
In a commercial dispute, there is no way to prove that transactions took place when alleged or that digital signatures on contracts are authentic.
Loss of Credibility
While any of these dangers can mean financial loss, so can the mere inability to demonstrate a competent business process. All business practices, and audits of business practices, involve time. So failure in this one area
throws all other processes into question.
A major factor in each of these areas is the fact that time on a computer is usually measured in milliseconds or fractions of milliseconds. Given the fact that there might be thousands of events occurring simultaneously on a network (however large you want to define “network”), it makes timekeeping just that much more important, and difficult. Without an accurate, reliable source of time, there is simply no intuitive way to tell whether an organization is about to run into trouble.
Over the next few days, I’ll go into more details on these dangers, please check back.
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